Luca Review

Dept. of Scooters and Sea Beasts


As the 24th feature film from Pixar Animation Studios, and the second to debut on Disney+ with no extra Premiere Access fees, Luca isn’t accompanied by quite the same expectations as their earlier output. The “perfect streak“ of Toy Story, A Bug’s Life, Monsters Inc., Finding Nemo, The Incredibles, Cars (the first one at least), Ratatouille, WALL-E, and Up having long been broken. Even considering Cars 2, however, they’ve never made an outright bad movie.

As we mentioned in our review of Onward from the before times: “Everyone’s waiting for the fall.” Everyone’s waiting for the Pixar movie that breaks the “3 Tiers of Pixar” movies.


They can still wait. Luca may not be as groundbreaking, or as emotionally devastating (in a good way!), as early Pixar outings, but it’s still an enjoyable adventure. Perfect for summer days trapped at home during lockdown.

Those first few Pixar movies used their technical wizardry not only to envision worlds that no one else could, but to tell stories that no one else could. My personal favourites always had a simple but brilliant concept at their hearts.

  • “What do toys do when we’re not around?”
  • “What’s life like for the average working monster under your bed?”  
  • “What does the last garbage cleaning robot do when everyone’s left the planet?”
  • “What if someone made the perfect Fantastic Four movie, without making a Fantastic Four movie?”

Luca isn’t as quite as easily described in such terms, but instead tries to capture a specific feeling.

Fish Out of Water… Literally

Luca and Alberto in their sea monster forms

Luca Paguro (Jacob Tremblay) is a monster. A sea monster to be precise; living in the sea off the Italian Riviera. Much like Disney’s own Little Mermaid, Luca is growing bored with his hum-drum life under the sea.  He spends is his days herding “goat fish,” avoiding the boats that occasionally pass by, and slowly developing a fascination with the ever encroaching surface world. It’s a world that his parents are deathly afraid of, and with good reason.  The local town of Portorosso being famed for its sea monster hunting history. 

A chance encounter with another boy-monster, Alberto Scorfano (Jack Dylan Grazer) (I love that everyone has full Italian names) sparks a friendship that leads to Luca becoming even more enamoured with the human world. Unfortunately for him, his parents get wind of his antics and plan to send him away to the gross oceans deep, with his gross Uncle Ugo (Sacha Baron Cohen).

His only chance at escape? Blend in with the humans and hide out in Portorosso with Alberto, ideally acquiring a Vespa scooter somewhere along the way.

What Could Possibly Go Wrong?

L:uca and Alberto in their human forms

I’ve never been to the Italian Riviera and I’m pretty sure no one reading this is a sea monster (if you are, please write in), but most of us can empathise with the feeling you get, spending a summer in an unfamiliar place, where the possibilities seem endless. Every day contains opportunities to experience new things, make new friends, embark on new adventures. Luca perfectly captures this feeling, as well as inducing a yearning for small Italian towns, overly large sandwiches, and piles of pasta.

As to be expected Luca looks gorgeous. Pixar has already proven themselves with undersea environments, and here they conjure up the perfect cosy Italian seaside town. There are moments of real beauty here, although the odd moment where Luca’s imagination takes flight, don’t quite gel with the rest of the movie for me.

The people (human or otherwise) feel positively Ghibli-esque at times, especially Luca’s mom, and the cat Machiavelli. Some however, like the kids, look like they could have come from the teams at Laika or Aardman. It doesn’t detract from the film in any way, but it’s something I don’t think you could say abut previous Pixar outings. Combined with a genteel, somewhat slight storyline, it does lead to Luca feeling not quite on the same level with say The Incredibles or Inside Out.

DON’T Just Add Water

Luca spills water on Alberto revealing his true form

It may not have quite the same scope of “Pixar’s Greatest Tier One Hits,” but Luca does have plenty of laughs and thrills. As the boys explore the town, and human culture, they discover the joys of ice cream and pasta, making new friends, as well as a nemesis, all the while avoiding getting wet so they don’t they reveal their true form. They also lust after Vespa scooters in a manner that would feel like obscene product placement anywhere else, but just about works here.

Luca doesn’t lean too heavily on the sea monster metaphor for any deep message, nor does it seem too bothered with the intricacies of its world. Why do the sea monsters turn into humans, losing their scales and tails, when they dry off? 

It doesn’t matter.

How did the boys learn to speak human language?

No one knows.

Why do all of Giulia Marcovaldo’s (Emma Berman) expletives involve Italian food?

Who cares, It’s fun! That’s exactly the kind of attitude to take when watching the film. Luca is a fun Disney adventure that’s as welcoming as a warm bowl of pasta. So where does Luca fit within Goggler’s “3 Tiers of Pixar” system? It slides in cosily in Tier 2 with Coco and Finding Dory .

Luca is now streaming on Dinsey+ Hotstar Malaysia

Irish Film lover lost in Malaysia. Co-host of Malaysia's longest running podcast (movie related or otherwise ) McYapandFries and frequent cryer in movies. Ask me about "The Ice Pirates"

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